Honourable and personal residential letting experts

It is clear the coronavirus pandemic is having a wide impact across the whole economy, with all businesses and individuals experiencing some loss, cost or inconvenience. We will do what we can to help you minimise any adverse impact on you and your home.

We have had conversations with many tenants and landlords understandably expressing concern about how tenancies may be affected. Positively everyone seems to be pulling together, recognising this is a new and extraordinary situation.

Given the need for social distancing and working from home where possible, we thought it may be helpful to update you to address some key questions you may have.

What if I can't pay my rent?

This is the obvious big question, as a wide range of businesses may be affected, which may mean your earnings could be affected. We hope that does not happen to you, but if it does it is important to let us know as soon as possible.

You will obviously need to explore the various government support schemes (see “What help is available?” below) and show you have done that, so we can explain to your landlord what steps you are taking to meet your obligations. If you can’t pay your whole rent, we will ask what you can pay.

Please remember that if there is more than one of you on the tenancy, then all named people are legally liable for the tenancy, so you need to work together to pay the rent where you can. The key is getting in touch as soon as possible, so everyone is aware early.

What help is available?

This is an extraordinary situation. However the Government has created a number of schemes to help protect people’s jobs and income until things get back to normal.

If you are employed they have the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where your employer can get 80% of your wages until October 2020 rather than you lose your job.

If you are self employed they have the Self-employment Income Support Scheme, where you can use your latest tax return to claim a taxable grant equivalent to 80% of your profits.

Both these have some delay, so there are business loans available to bridge the gap.

These schemes will cover most people, but there will still be some who are not covered, so the Government have increased benefit levels to cover those people. They have also made it clear the benefits office can give emergency payments/loans where needed.

If your income is reduced because of this crisis you need to ensure you get any support available through these schemes, or ensure your employer does, before you assume the landlord will be able to reduce the rent.

Can I get a rent reduction or rent payment holiday?

Maybe!

For you to have a rent reduction or rent payment holiday your landlord needs to agree to receive less rent from you. Whilst some landlords may be able to afford this, most landlords rely upon rent as a major source of their income. In other words, they maybe as dependent on the rent as you are on your income, which is why it is important to have explored all other means of paying your rent, including support from the Government first.

That said many landlords have been receptive to applications for some form of rent reduction, or rent payment delay, for a short period. Understandably they would want to know as much as possible about the changes to your circumstances, along with any documentation or calculations you have. This will help them understand your situation and assess how they can help. Where such arrangements have been agreed the tenants normally repay any unpaid rent over time. If your landlord has any rent protection insurance or the chance of a mortgage payment holiday, this information may help them cover any reduction in rent.

Please be aware any rent protection insurance is usually conditional upon the insurer evicting any tenant, which may not be in your best interests.

 

Will my landlord evict me if I can’t pay rent?

Under normal circumstances, that may happen. However many landlords we have spoken to understand this is an extraordinary situation and want to work to help everyone through this, so things can get back to normal as soon as possible.

Apart from that the Government has said it will stop any new court eviction proceedings, currently until 24 August 2020.

For clarity the formal position is the rent will still be due. However we know exceptional arrangements may be needed during these exceptional times as everyone is going to experience some difficulty, so the key will be working with your landlord to bridge the gap till things get back to normal.

Will I be charged fees if I can’t pay my rent?

No! The law prevents any fees. In theory you can be charged interest on any debt at 3% above Bank of England base rate a year. On £1,000 rent that would be less than £1 a week – obviously not significant!

During this our focus is going to be helping people get back to their normal payment patterns as soon as possible, not on making charges.

If I can’t pay rent will this affect any future reference for me?

If you previously have a good payment record and you have only had a difficulty during this crisis, plus you have keep us fully up to date with any issues, we do not believe there is any reason to give a poor reference regarding your payment history. This is an exceptional situation and we are treating it as such.

As my landlord can get a mortgage holiday, does that mean I do not have to pay rent?

Sadly no!

The Government has extended ‘mortgage holidays’ to buy to let mortgages as a precaution in case tenants lose their income and can’t pay their rent. The legal obligation to pay your rent remains, as does the landlords’ obligation to meet any mortgage payments. The ‘holiday’ effectively just delays the mortgage payment.

What if I need repairs at my home?

We have reduced any contact between you and our team or the contractors we work with. We obviously do not want to go in someone’s home if it can be avoided, which is entirely reasonable.

To achieve this we are focusing on getting essential repairs completed e.g. where there is no heat, no hot water, no power etc.

  • If you have any essential work you can email [email protected] or call us on 01480 494967. Our team is available on the phones during our normal office hours, and our emergency out of hours contractor also plans to be available for priority repairs.
  • Any works that are not essential will usually need to wait, unless you and the contractor are content to go ahead. However, please let us know what is needed, so we can speak with your landlord and instruct contractors to start work as soon as things get back to normal. To do this please see our repairs and maintenance pages.
  • If you need some help please visit our repairs self help pages – you may find you can fix things yourself. If not, give us a call, we may be able to get someone to help you remotely.
  • Where essential repairs are needed, our contractors will liaise with you to clarify whether you have been tested positive or exposed to someone with the virus in the last 2 weeks. They can then agree with you how and when to get the work done so everybody is safe.
  • There is also the question of periodic safety checks required by law e.g. gas safety certificates. We continue to try and arrange these; however, if you say you do not want someone in your come to do this work until things have returned to normal, we will delay the works.
  • We have also postponed most routine property visits to minimise travel and contact for staff and you.

What if I want to end my tenancy?

Your legal right to serve notice to end your tenancy should not be affected.

If you want to discuss ending your tenancy, or withdrawing your notice to leave, then please contact [email protected]

If you’re alone or need help during this extraordinary situation, give us a call. We will see if there is something we can do, even if it is just having a chat!

If you have any thoughts or concerns about the items on this page or other questions we have not covered, then please get in touch on [email protected]

or call us on

01480 494939